La Cioccolata in
by Doctor George
In ‘Return Visit’, Soo Angarrack became Coco’s apprentice. In ‘Staff Training’, she acquired some vital skills for her new role. That just left the small matter of Soo taking part in a job with Coco for the first time...
Part 1: Theory
“Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration.” – Thomas Alva Edison
Soo had just arrived at work and was attending to the important first priority of the day, making coffee for herself and Coco, when the doorbell rang.
“Hello, Miss Angarrack.” The postman greeted her as sshe opened the door. He handed over a stack of envelopes secured with a rubber band then produced a clipboard from his cart. “I need a signature for this one.”
Soo scribbled her signature in the box indicated and received another envelope in exchange.
“And there’s this too,” he added, handing over a large brown paper sack, which Soo tucked awkwardly under one arm.
Soo thanked the postman and closed the door. None of the mail was marked for her personal attention so she took it all to Coco’s office and piled it on an empty space at the end of her desk, placing the envelopes on top of the sack.
“Coffee follows shortly,” she informed her boss and returned to the kitchen.
When Soo returned with two mugs of coffee, Coco had opened the envelopes and sorted the mail into several categories.
“This is actually for you,” Coco said passing the brown paper sack to Soo, still unopened.
Soo glanced at the address label, but neither the way it had been addressed to Coco nor the return address gave her any clues. She took a steel letter-opener from Coco’s desk and set to work to lever open the staples securing the package. Inside was a transparent polythene bag containing something completely unidentifiable. Whatever it was, it seemed to be made of beige fabric and was bulky and floppy. She ripped open the polythene and removed the contents. Still puzzled, she unfolded the bundle of fabric. The strange object turned out to be an approximate representation of a nude female torso with the upper parts of the arms and legs attached. The way it hung limp and boneless as she held it up in her hands she found a little disturbing and faintly obscene.
“It’s a fat-suit!” Soo exclaimed, finally working out what she was looking at.
“Made to measure to fit you.”
“All those measurements you took a couple of weeks back?”
“Well, I know you said it was for something to wear on our first job together, but I wasn’t expecting this.”
“I wanted to surprise you,” Coco said with a mischievous grin. “Why don’t you try it on?”
“This is going to be very, very weird,” Soo predicted, draping the suit over one arm and heading out of the room. At the door, she hesitated. “Coco, am I supposed to wear anything underneath this?”
“It’s all washable, so you shouldn’t need to, and it’s designed to give you all the support you need up here.” Coco indicated her bust.
Upstairs in the bathroom, Soo stripped naked and then examined the strange garment. At least, she assumed it qualified as a garment. The opening was down the back with a long zip fastener and a Velcro flap cunningly designed not to leave a visible ridge. She pulled it open and inspected the interior of the suit. Inside were two pieces separate from the rest but attached with a safety pin. Soo tentatively identified these as padding for her calves and set them aside.
There was only one way to find out how to wear the fat suit and that was to try it. Soo sat down on the edge of the bath and inserted first one leg then the other. As she did do, she realised that there was a secondary opening at the bottom of the suit. She puzzled over it for a moment before realising that this was to allow her to deal with calls of nature without having to remove the whole suit. She was surprised at how much she was embarrassed by this discovery, despite being alone in a locked bathroom.
Getting the first arm in was easy, but to get the second arm in she had to manipulate the suit with the arm that was already partly encased in padded fabric. Once she succeeded, she had to arrange the chest to fit properly. The suit had built-in bra cups which provided a surprisingly firm lift in contrast to the suit’s own massive breasts.
Once Soo was satisfied with the general arrangement of the suit around her body, she reached behind her and located the zip. Lifting the zip to shoulder-blade level was easy, but after that, she had to reach back over her shoulders and found that the padding of the suit made her considerably less flexible than she was used to. She repeated the same contortions to close the Velcro flap then bent down to pull on the padding for her calves. One again the suit made the action much more difficult, with the padded abdomen severely restricting her ability to bend forwards.
Soo stood up and took the final step she had been avoiding: she looked at herself in the mirror. Although the suit was simply beige fabric with no real attempt to mimic skin, the overall effect was nevertheless shockingly realistic with the bulk and stance of a fat woman convincingly captured. The massive tank of a belly was well captured, with the characteristic creases defined by the inguinal ligaments separating it from the thighs and even a dent for the belly button. The breasts were alarming and almost pornographic with the bumps to represent nipples. Soo had expected the suit to come right up to her throat, but it had a surprisingly deep scoop neckline. As she examined it, she realised the reason for the uncompromising under-wired lift given by the bra cups: it was so that with a low neckline, the visible part of her chest and cleavage would look consistent with the huge fake bust that extended it downwards and outwards.
Turning side on to the mirror, Soo saw that the outline of a fat woman had been characterised quite convincingly with rounded shoulders and ample bottom. The breasts and abdomen looked even more alarming from this angle.
Soo discovered once more that she no longer bent as easily in the middle as she stooped to pick up her clothes and headed back down to see Coco. As she trotted downstairs at her usual pace, she was disconcerted to discover how much the belly and breasts bounced so she slowed down accordingly.
“Well?” Coco asked.
“You can’t wander around looking like a fat rag doll all day, so go and try on some clothes.”
Soo hesitated, unsure what she was supposed to wear like this.
“The suit should make you about the same size as me. You know where the dressing-up wardrobe is, so scoot.”
Back upstairs, Soo went to the spare bedroom where Coco kept an extensive array of clothes, some of it simply overflow from the wardrobe in her own bedroom and some of it bought specifically to be worn as disguise.
She opened the wardrobe doors and simply stared at the clothes for a long time. Coco was almost thirty years her senior, but still had plenty of things a younger woman could wear, so the main issue was selecting something a fat twenty-year-old might choose. Another consideration was the season. It was early autumn and cool enough that Soo had been perfectly comfortable wearing a warm sweater in the office. She was already feeling quite cosy inside the padding of the fat-suit and dreaded overheating by putting too many clothes on. Pondering this, she reasoned that a fat woman might not feel the cold as much as she did, so warm, but not too warm, might work plausibly.
Soo started by trying on a long-sleeved white top. She inspected the effect in the mirror and was horrified to realise that she actually needed to wear a bra on top of the fat suit. She eventually found one that would fit and decided that in the interests of convenience later, she would omit panties. She put the white top back on and searched for a skirt. She picked out a slate-grey brushed denim one that looked insanely huge, but proved to fit her comfortably and came down to mid-calf level. After pondering colour schemes a little longer, Soo removed the white top and substituted a bright yellow one in the same style with long sleeves and a deep round neck. She added a heavy v-necked sweater in broad light and dark grey horizontal stripes.
The overall effect was getting quite good, Soo decided as she inspected herself in a full-length mirror. It was however very obvious that opaque legwear was going to be essential to disguise the padding on her calves. She selected a pair of long black and grey striped socks and put them on, once again hampered by the bulk of the fake stomach.
Soo studied her reflection again. Her relatively short hair made her head look too small in contrast to the padded bulk of her body. She went to the cupboard where Coco kept wigs. She knew that Coco’s head was slightly broader than hers, but was still hopeful of finding an acceptable fit. She looked at several and eventually picked one that was a good imitation of blonde-dyed hair showing brown at the roots. It came almost down to her shoulders in an unruly cascade of soft waves.
After a little more thought, Soo added a necklace of big wooden beads painted an amber colour and a broad plastic bangle in a similar shade.
Coco’s feet were a little larger than Soo’s but close enough to be workable. She found a pair of black Mary-Janes with thick Dr Martens soles and wore a pair of heavy grey ankle socks to pad her feet out enough to wear them.
Soo returned to the mirror and reviewed her efforts critically. She was pleased with the appearance of the total stranger who looked back at her and went to show Coco the results.
“Very good,” Coco said as Soo executed a slow twirl in front of her.
“Anyone who knows me well might still recognise me though.”
“I think we can fix that. I looked these out while you were upstairs.” She handed Soo a plastic packet containing two small pink objects.
Soo studied the packet in puzzlement.
“They’re cheek pads. They go in the gap between your bottom teeth and your cheeks. If they don’t fit we can trim them with scissors.”
“Back in a minute, then,” Soo said, leaving the room once again.
Back in the bathroom, Soo stood in front of a mirror and worked the cheek pads into her mouth. She wedged them into the space between her cheeks and lower gums as Coco had indicated. With her mouth closed, the pads came well up past her upper teeth.
Soo looked intently at her reflection and was astonished at the result. Her familiar sharply angular jawline was gone and the woman in the mirror looked back at her from a plumply rounded face. It really was like looking at a completely different person. The pads weren’t exactly uncomfortable to wear but did feel very odd.
Coco examined Soo intently, now that the final stage of her transformation was complete.
“I think you will do very nicely as my new assistant,” Coco said at length.
“What? You mean you want me to wear this stuff all day?”
“I want you to wear it until you can move completely naturally in it. I would guess that about a week should do. So, yes, you’ll be wearing it all day and every day until it’s second nature to be a fat woman.”
“What will clients say?”
“I think you’ll have to be Soo’s stand-in while she’s away somewhere. I know you don’t really do accents, but are there any at all you can do?”
“Well, with a name loyke Aangaaraack, Oy can do Corrrnish, moy deeaarr,” Soo replied with a grin.
Coco winced. “Perhaps moderate it a little?”
“Proper Cornish but without the straw in my ears?” Soo suggested in a soft West-Country burr.
“That’s good, if you can keep it up,” Coco agreed. “You still look a bit like Soo, so perhaps you should be her cousin or something. What’s your name going to be?”
“Carenza. I’ve always fancied being a Carenza. How about Carenza Trefusis?”
“I like that,” Coco said. “Now, how about I take you out to lunch, Carenza, seeing as it’s your first day in the office and it’s getting on for one o’clock?”
Soo was horror stricken. “I can’t go out like this! I won’t fool anyone for two minutes and they’ll all know it’s me!”
“Trust me, you’re fine,” Coco assured her. “No one will be expecting you to be Soo, so they won’t see you as Soo. People are lazy like that. At any rate, when we do go on your first job, you need to go in public like that, so there’s no time like the present to get used to it.”
“OK,” Soo said in a small voice, but remembering to sound like Carenza.
“Now, it’s quite a chilly day, so you’ll need to work out what Carenza wears on top of that.”
“I’m boiling as it is,” Soo complained, but still managed to stay in character.
“I know, and that’s one of the things you’ll be getting used to.”
A few minutes later, the two women left the house, Coco now wearing a navy blue overcoat and ‘Carenza’ a grey Icelandic knitted poncho. As they walked down the path, Coco nodded at her neighbour, who was heading up the path to her own front door.
“More staff, Coco?” the older woman said as she searched for her keys.
“Just a temp while Soo is away on a course, Annabelle,” Coco said as she held the gate open for ‘Carenza’.
As they walked down the street, Coco said quietly, “First test passed.”
Part 2: Practice
“People only see what they are prepared to see.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Two women walked together along a street not far from Camden Market in North London. They were similar in build, both barely over five feet tall and rotund to the point of being very definitely overweight. The younger of the two had frizzy red hair pulled back into an unruly bunch at the back of her head exploding out from under the green woollen cap she wore. She was near-sighted judging from the way her freckled face appeared narrowed by her thick spectacles. The older woman bore a strong resemblance to her companion, not just in height and weight. Her hair was similarly frizzy but the red had almost completely given way to grey and was scraped back into a tight bun hidden inside the moss green beret she wore. Like the younger woman, she looked out at the world through thick glasses from grey eyes.
It was a brisk autumn day and both women were dressed for the weather. The younger one wore a chocolate brown hip-length duffel coat over lighter brown trousers tucked into Ugg sheepskin boots. A green knitted scarf matching her hat was looped around her neck and hung loose outside the coat. She wore a small brown leather rucksack instead of a handbag, allowing her to keep her hands thrust deep into her pockets.
The older woman wore a rust-red herringbone tweed overcoat with a brown and cream silk scarf worn loosely at the throat. She wore polished brown leather boots with flat soles. The occasional glimpse of dark trousers tucked into them could be seen as she walked. Like the younger woman, her choice of handbag, a capacious brown leather shoulder bag, allowed her to keep her hands in her pockets.
The women paused outside a small jewellery shop and studied the goods in the window, pointing various items out to each other. Both wore thin brown leather gloves. The woman inside at the shop counter glanced at them then carried on with her task of cleaning a silver brooch.
The women walked a few paces to inspect the contents of the shop’s other display window on the other side of the narrow central doorway. Again, they pointed out different items and appeared to be engaged in animated discussion.
As she stood with Coco, examining the jeweller’s window in front of her Soo examined her reflection in the glass. It was true that her disguise was so subtle as to be completely undetectable as a disguise, but she still felt horribly conspicuous dressed like this and very nervous. Her stomach was clenched into a tight knot waiting for the job to begin.
At last, Coco made a move and pressed the bell next to the door. The woman at the counter pressed a button somewhere out of sight and released the lock on the door.
“I saw you having a good long look, is there something I can show you?” the shopkeeper asked, putting down the brooch and cleaning materials.
“Yes please,” the older of the two customers replied. “My daughter’s twenty-first is coming up soon and I promised her she could have something nice to mark the occasion.”
The younger redhead smiled with pleasure and added, “I like the bracelet with green stones in that window.” She indicate the second of the two windows they had looked at.
Now they had started the job, Soo felt much better and was relieved that her voice was under control and she had no difficulty staying in character. Coco had decided that it would be easier for Soo not to have to change her voice the first time she did a job, so she spoke with her usual London accent.
The shopkeeper emerged from behind the counter. She was a woman in her forties with brown hair just turning to grey piled on top of her head. As befitted a characterful working jeweller’s establishment, she was dressed mainly for comfort but with a certain bohemian panache in a cerise corduroy skirt worn with a navy blue round necked sweater and matching woollen tights. She wore black leather t-strap sandals with thick grey socks folded down to her ankles. As the heating in the shop was a little inadequate, she also wore a light blue crochet shawl over her shoulders. She had knotted the ends behind her back to keep it out of the way while she worked. There was a pair of red fingerless gloves lying on the counter which she had presumably been wearing prior to starting her cleaning task.
The shopkeeper rummaged in her skirt pocket for a bunch of keys and then paused to select the right one.
“Actually, we’ll just help ourselves,” the older customer said, her voice suddenly acquiring an edge.
The shopkeeper looked up from her keys to see that the customer had pulled her scarf up over her mouth and nose and was now pointing a small automatic pistol at her. “Oh, shit,” she said quietly, realising that the panic button behind the counter was hopelessly out of reach.
“Quite,” the supposed customer responded.
The younger intruder had also pulled her scarf up in an attempt to disguise herself and was busy lowering the blinds on the two display windows and the glazed door.
“If you do exactly as you're told, you won't be harmed,” the older intruder said.
“What do I have to do?”
“First of all, you hand me those keys. After that, I'm afraid, I'll have to ask you to allow my colleague to bind and gag you. It won't be the most pleasant of experiences, but if you don't resist, she'll do her best not to make it worse than it has to be.”
“It's only jewellery; it's not worth dying for,” the shopkeeper responded.
“That's a very sensible attitude,” the younger intruder said, picking up a wooden chair which stood in the corner of the shop and positioning it in the centre of the floor.
She examined the chair briefly. It was a traditional bent-wood chair of indeterminate age. The seat was a circular wooden frame infilled with cane wickerwork. It was supported by two straight front legs while the back legs and the backrest were formed from a single arch of shaped wood. A smaller arch of slightly thinner wood sat inside that, secured to the back of the seat with screws and to the top of the chair with cane binding. The four legs were braced by a circular hoop of bent wood about half way between the floor and the seat. The intruder put one foot on the front of the chair seat and attempted to twist the backrest with her hands. The chair flexed very slightly but showed no sign of breaking.
“This will do nicely; please sit down.”
The shopkeeper did as she was instructed, looking anxiously at her two captors. The older woman still had her gun aimed steadily while the younger one had unslung her rucksack from her back and was unloading bundles of rope from it.
“I know you'll tie me up whatever I say, but could you do it without tying my hands behind my back? My shoulders are getting a bit arthritic and I think that would probably be very painful.”
The two intruders exchanged a glance, before the younger said. “We have to keep you from raising the alarm, but we don't want to hurt you.” She passed the shopkeeper the fingerless gloves that had been left on the counter. “Put these on and hold your hands out in front of you.”
The shopkeeper's hands were trembling slightly as she held them out. The younger intruder arranged them so they were palm to palm then bound the wrists with a series of figure-of-eight loops around them, finishing off with several cinching turns between them and knotting the ends of the rope well out of reach of the shopkeeper's fingers. She left two fairly long tails of rope hanging loose from the binding.
“Keep your hands up for a minute,” the younger intruder instructed as she selected another length of rope. She fastened one end of it to the top of one of the chair's back legs, just below the seat, then wound it around the shopkeeper's waist and the chair back, forming a band of around half a dozen turns of rope and finally fastening the other end to the top of the other back leg. She gently guided the shopkeeper's hands down into her lap and used the loose ends of the wrist binding to attach it to the waist rope.
“All secure now,” the younger intruder said to her colleague, who nodded in reply and put the gun in her coat pocket.
The older woman started searching through the trays in the display windows, now hidden from public view by the drawn blinds. She took about half of the items, placing them in a black velour bag.
While this was going on the younger woman continued systematically immobilising the shopkeeper. She tied one end of a long piece of rope at the top of the chair back to one side of the cane binding that secured the inner and outer arches of the backrest together. She brought the rope forward over the shopkeeper's shoulder, diagonally across her body and looped it around the top of one of the chair's back legs. She brought the rope back up across the shopkeeper's body, following the same diagonal again, up over her shoulder and fed the rope through the backrest and across to the opposite shoulder, taking it diagonally down across her body, crossing over the previous shoulder ropes, around the top of a back leg as before, back up across her body again and then fastened the end off at the top of the backrest, symmetrically opposite her starting point. She then used two short lengths of rope to pull the shopkeeper's elbows back towards the side members of the chair back.
“Lift your feet, please.” The younger intruder lashed the shopkeeper's legs together over her skirt, finishing off with a knot in the middle of her lap. “Down now.” She took the loose ends down to the junctions of the back legs of the chair with the wooden hoop that braced them and fastened them off securely. She used two more lengths of rope to tie the shopkeeper's legs at her ankles and just below her knees, cinching the binding in each case. She fastened off the ends of the rope to the front legs of the chair to limit the movement of the shopkeeper's feet.
“Well, it's hardly a bed of roses,” the shopkeeper replied, “but it's not as bad as I feared and it's better than getting shot by your mother.”
The younger intruder returned to her rucksack and drew out a plastic bag containing folded white cloth.
“You don't have to gag me – I'll just sit here quietly.”
“I'm sure you could make yourself heard in the street, if you put your mind to it, so I'm afraid it's part of the deal.”
The intruder crumpled a piece of cloth into a ball and pushed it into the shopkeeper's mouth. She folded another piece into a band, eased it between her teeth and knotted it behind her head. The shopkeeper grunted as the knot was tightened.
“I'm sorry – it's not much fun being gagged, but with a bit of luck it'll only be for a couple of hours.”
The younger intruder went to join her colleague's comprehensive search of the inventory. Suddenly the silence in the shop was broken by the sound of a key being inserted into the door. The shopkeeper and the younger intruder instinctively looked at the door. Her older colleague, however, moved like lightning, astonishingly fast for a woman of her build. In an instant, the shopkeeper found her head wedged between the woman's left arm and her body while the gun was pressed to her temple.
The door opened to reveal a girl aged perhaps nineteen or twenty. She was dressed in jeans tucked into bright red socks which were just visible over the tops of the Doc Martens boots she wore. Above that she wore a lumberjack jacket in a startlingly intense red and green plaid with a red scarf wound around her neck and matching red knitted cap and mittens. In her hand was brown paper carrier bag bearing the name of a local delicatessen.
“Hi, Auntie,” the girl began, “why are the...” Her voice faded as she took in the scene in the shop. “Oh, shit,” she added very quietly.
“That's what your aunt said,” the woman with the gun told her. “Now come into the shop and close the door behind you.”
“Please don't hurt her,” the newcomer pleaded, her voice tremulous with fear.
“Nobody will get hurt as long as you both do as you're told.”
The girl nodded wordlessly, her eyes fixed on the gun held against her aunt's head.
“Now put the bag down on the counter; you two will just have to wait a bit for your lunch.”
“What happens next?” The girl asked, trying to control a terrified squeak in her voice.
“Very simple: we tie you up like your aunt; we finish our job here and the police get an anonymous phone call later on.”
“And you won't shoot us?”
“Nobody will get hurt as long as you both do as you're told,” the older intruder repeated.
The younger intruder had disappeared briefly into the back premises while this conversation had been going on. “That's the only proper chair they have in here, Ma,” she said indicating the one the shopkeeper was tied to. “There's a tall stool behind the counter and another one at the workbench out back, but no chairs, so I'll need to improvise a bit.”
“Do you need help?”
“No, I've worked out what I'm going to do. Just keep them both covered while I tie her up.”
“Is this going to hurt?”
“It won't be very nice but it won't hurt,” the younger intruder assured her as she drew a length of rope out of her rucksack. “Hold your hands out in front of you, please.”
The girl stood with her hands held out in front of her. They trembled slightly as her aunt's had, showing the fear she was trying so hard to hide.
The younger intruder wrapped rope around the girl's wrists in a series of figure-of-eight turns as she had done with the shopkeeper and cinched the binding in exactly the same way and finished with a firm knot.
“I'm sorry, but this will be a bit nasty, however I do it,” the younger intruder apologised as she produced two more pieces of cloth. As before, she screwed one into a ball and held it in front of the girl's face. She clamped her mouth shut and recoiled slightly.
“Look, if you fight me, I really will have to hurt you. Make it easy on yourself and cooperate.”
Reluctantly the girl opened her mouth to accept the wad of cloth. It was followed by a band of cloth pulled between her teeth and knotted at the nape of her neck. She turned her head from side to side trying to make the gag less constricting.
“Just let it settle for a few minutes and it won't feel so bad. You can't spit it out and you'll hurt your mouth if you fight it.”
The girl stopped struggling, but still drew rapid, ragged breaths past her gag.
“Try to relax. This won't be as bad as you think. It'll be a bit weird not being able to move, but it's nothing to be scared of. Understand?”
The girl nodded.
“Good. Now I need you to sit down on the floor with your back against the back legs of your aunt's chair.”
Moving awkwardly with her bound wrists, the girl did as she was instructed and sat looking up at her captors with her legs stretched out in front of her and her hands on her lap.
The younger intruder selected a short piece of rope then lifted the girl's hands above her head and secured her wrist binding to the top of the chair back.
A longer length of rope was used to secure the niece's chest to the back legs of the chair. The intruder lifted the girl's scarf out of the way as she wound the rope around her. “Don't want to strangle you, do we?” The band of rope was carefully placed at the same level as the brace between the chair legs so that it could be fastened to the points where it was joined to them so that the rope would not slip up or down.
The younger intruder carefully assessed how much freedom of movement her latest victim might have then selected another length of rope and wrapped it around the girl's waist and the back legs of the chair. She knotted it then used two shorter lengths to cinch the band of rope together between the girl's body and the chair leg each side.
Two more shorter lengths of rope were used to lash the girl's elbows to the sides of the chair back. “That's so you won't have the whole weight of your arms on your wrists.” It was also to limit the young woman's ability to pull her hands free, but the intruder didn't tell her that.
Lastly, the younger intruder used two more lengths of rope to lash the girl's legs together. She bound them at the ankles and just below her knees, cinching each binding securely. She also took a couple of turns of rope under the soles of the girl's boots for extra security.
Satisfied with her work, the intruder stood up and went in search of her colleague who had gone into the back premises.
“How are you doing?” Soo whispered.
“They’ve got a better safe than I expected,” Coco replied, indicating a small grey steel cabinet with a combination lock in the middle of its door.
“Can you open it?”
“Maybe, given lots of time, but that one's well beyond the classic stethoscope approach.”
“What are you going to do?”
“I'll just ask the owner for the combination,” Coco explained. The slight wrinkling of the scorners of her eyes suggested she was grinning behind her scarf.
The older intruder stood in silence looking down at the shopkeeper for a moment before speaking. “That nice little safe of yours is causing me a spot of bother. I can think of two ways to deal with it. One is I blow the door off.” She reached into her coat pocket and produced a small polythene bag. Inside and visible through the transparent wrapping was a lump of some reddish brown substance with a translucent paper wrapper.
The shopkeeper's eyes widened in shock as she read the lettering on the paper: SEMTEX-1A.
“Of course it will make quite a mess of your nice little workshop. The other way, of course, is that you just tell me the combination.
The shopkeeper nodded urgently.
“Take our host's gag off for a minute, would you?”
The younger intruder loosened the shopkeeper's gag and extracted the wad of cloth from her mouth. As soon as the safe combination had been divulged, she reversed the process and re-applied the gag, taking care that it was securely but not unduly tightly tied. With that done, she went to join her colleague again.
The safe was standing open when Soo returned to the back room.
“I think that's us done,” Coco said, showing Soo the items she had taken from the safe before bagging them.
As the two intruders returned to the main part of the shop, the shopkeeper's niece had her head tipped back and appeared to be examining the way her wrists were bound above her head.
“Sorry, but that's a trade secret,” the younger intruder said, pulling the girl's woollen hat down so that it covered her entire head.
“Good idea,” the older intruder commented. She briefly revisited the workroom and returned with a navy blue woollen beret and a short scarf in the same cerise as the shopkeeper’s skirt. She put the beret on the shopkeeper’s head and as it was quite loosely shaped, she was able to pull it right down to her chin. She then tied the scarf around the woman’s head to form an extra layer of blindfold.
After a final check to make sure nothing incriminating had been left behind, the two intruders pulled their scarves down below their chins again, let themselves out of the shop, locking the door behind them as they went and tossing the keys back in through the letterbox.
The first leg of Soo’s journey back to Muswell Hill was walking to a bus station. She went to a bank of luggage lockers and retrieved a large rucksack then made her way to the bus station’s public toilets. She entered the disabled toilet, knowing it would offer her both privacy and ample space to work. She drew a polythene sheet out of the rucksack and laid it out on the floor.
Soo removed her spectacles then extracted the contact lenses that had enabled her to see through them. Theoretically they exactly cancelled each other out but she found that they did odd things to her vision whenever she was not looking through the centre of the spectacle lenses. It was a relief to be rid of them.
Next, Soo removed her clothes and then the fat-suit, piling everything on the plastic sheet. Once she was completely naked, she spent a few minutes with cleansing wipes removing the fake freckles from her face and neck and the ginger mascara from her eyelashes and eyebrows.
Soo quickly dressed herself in clothes and a wig which had been packed in the rucksack then turned the rucksack inside out, changing both its colour and the style of the straps. She stowed the fat-suit and the clothes she had worn with it in the rucksack and hoisted it onto her back.
The woman who left the disabled toilet bore little resemblance to the one who had gone in. Soo now wore a fleece jacket and denim skirt with walking boots and heavy socks over thick tights. Her hair was hidden under a straight dark brown wig with the hair braided into short plaits. She walked to the luggage lockers and loaded her rucksack into one of them after pausing to extract a scarf from it and winding it around her neck. She boarded a bur bound for central London.
Some time and several changes of direction and appearance later, Soo returned to the luggage locker arriving by underground train this time. Eventually, after more changes, she returned to Coco’s house as herself but now trailing a wheeled suitcase behind her.
Coco was already home and waiting for Soo.
“Don’t think so. I certainly didn’t see anyone paying me too much attention.”
“You did a good job with the two women – I’m not sure La Cioccolata would have done any differently. The mother-and-daughter act worked well – we’ll need to keep that in mind when we work together in the future.”
The two women immediately set to work to tidy up after the job. The clothes went back into Coco’s store of disguises. The empty luggage went up into the loft. The proceeds of the job went into one of Coco’s hidden storage areas until buyers could be identified. The fat suit was similarly hidden as was the imitation pistol and the perfectly harmless piece of brick-red modelling clay with its home-made ‘Semtex’ label.
“Your first professional job – well, done Soo.”
The two women exchanged high-fives then put the kettle on for a well-earned cup of tea.
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